At the “Cracking the Code” meeting, we received several questions from attendees concerning the Code Diagnosis. Here are some responses to those questions:
Q: Now that the community character portion has closed, in what ways can community members be involved and in what ways can they raise concerns?
A: “Community Character in a Box” has two more rounds of submittals. The next round is due July 31st in order to be included in the next edition of the community character manual. Community members can also take part in a series of CodeTalks which will begin in June 2014 to discuss key issues in the Code revision process.
Q: How does the community character manual apply to the code diagnosis document?
A: The Code Diagnosis describes the major issues with the existing Land Development Code (LDC). The Community Character manual documents the existing conditions of the 103 Neighborhood Reporting Areas. The manual shows the diverse nature of the city of Austin while the Code Diagnosis describes the complex ways in which the LDC attempts to adjust to the diverse nature of the city.
Q: What impact will the community character manual have on the City Council’s decision Sept/Oct 2014 on the direction the code development will take?
A: The manual is a reference guide, atlas, visual glossary, and character catalog of the physical elements that make Austin the place it is. It is intended to provide an understanding of the range of types of places that exist throughout Austin, to help enable the CodeNEXT team to propose appropriate zoning tools based on place-specific characteristics and patterns. The manual will help the team identify the level of effort needed to develop a new code for Austin and provide a basis for developing the alternative approaches for code preparation that will be presented to City Council in Fall 2014.
Q: How does your zoning protect a neighborhood from scraping lots for developers/builders?
A: Zoning generally defines what can be built, how much can be built and where it can be built. It does not inherently protect buildings from being torn down. Zones can be refined to limit the amount of development so that it more closely matches existing development, lessening the pressure to tear down and rebuild bigger. However even these changes are limited in their ability to “protect” a neighborhood from tear downs. Neighborhood Conservation Combining Districts (NCCDs) and Historic districts can be implemented to protect existing buildings. They can be written to protect neighborhoods from tear downs.
Q: How will existing local historic districts be implemented in Code? Absorbed as form based or zoning overlay or something else? What about National Register Historic Districts or other concentrations of historic structures that don’t have city zoning protection?
A: The CodeNEXT has not determined the most appropriate way yet. Options include keeping historic district overlays (potentially with refinements if needed), integrate the standards and regulations from the historic district into new base zones (conventional or Form-based).
Q: How is “where appropriate” going to be determined?
A: In 2015 and 2016 the LDC will be updated, and as part of that process refined and/or new zones will be drafted. After these zones are drafted they will be mapped, tested and reviewed to see what zones and other tools are appropriate in different parts of the City of Austin. Ultimately City Council in 2016 through a public process will decide whether to apply the tools to specific tracts.
Q: Wouldn’t it be easier / less complicated to have a set of rules which applies uniformly across the urban core?
A: This is what the city had in the original LDC written over thirty years ago. History of amendments to the LDC has shown that the uniform application did not reflect the complexity and diversity that is inherent in a city.
You can read more answers to questions from the "Cracking the Code" event by clicking here. To review other project questions, visit the Frequency Asked Questions section of the CodeNEXT website.